Running the Circus (Part 3)

(Continued from Part 2)

There are a lot of salons in the world. And the trend is booth renting. Booth rental works (and I use that term lightly) for the salon industry so well because it appeals to both sides. For the salon owner, you have very little responsibility to your staff. Of course, you also have very little control — which ends up being a big problem for many. But you don't have to provide products and supplies, you don't have to provide unemployment and workers' compensation insurance. You don't have to worry about the extra paperwork involved with collecting monies and divvying them back out — sans taxes.


You just give someone a key and they give you money. You don't have to mentor them. You don't have to guarantee them an income. You don't have to advertise for them. You have no obligation to make sure they are successful under your name. And you don't have to field complaints; you just hold up your hand and say, "I'm not the boss."


Very convenient.


Just a few problems:


One: Most of us are control freaks. Especially the ones that end up opening our own salons. We do it because we weren't in control as renters. Oh sure! In a true booth rent situation, the individual renters do have a lot of control — but only over themselves. Not over their overall environment. As a renter, I can't, for example, tell my coworkers not to let their clients bring children to the salon. So I just have to bite my tongue and suck it up when someone else's client's precious darlings are running through the salon and blocking the walkways. I also don't get to repaint all the walls when I'm tired of the color scheme. Or decide if we will decorate for the holidays. Or dress up for Halloween. Or record the outgoing message on the machine.


On the other hand, I also don't have to pay the electric bill or the insurance. I don't have to call the electrician when a breaker goes bad or worry about whether the problems with the phones are going to come out of my pocket or be covered by the phone company.


The other problem is the exact opposite of the first: When a salon owner isn't a control freak. Which is what we all hope for under a booth rental set up. Someone who will just take my rent and give me a key.


Except then you have a salon owner who owns the salon, but isn't leading the staff. There's no one to take charge when charge is required.


In some cases, the lackadaisical owner is also a deadbeat. Collecting the rent but not using it to pay the electrician. Leaving the phone system in chaos — shrugging it off and saying, "everyone just uses their cell phones anyway." The flowers in the flowerbed die because the owner fired the gardener. And the new phone book doesn't have an ad in it, not because the owner decided not to renew it, but because she just forgot.


But what about a conscientious owner who isn't a leader? What about a good owner of a booth rental salon who makes sure the bills are paid and the lawn in green and the phones are working, but beyond that, she leaves her staff to fend for themselves?


"Hey!" she says, "I'm not your boss. If you want to put an ad in the yellow pages, go for it. If you want to put a sign in the yard, go for it. If you want to run a special, go for it. You're self-employed."


Thing is, people want leadership. This is why we don't have anarchy. People will always find someone to follow. And some people will always find someone to follow them. The funny thing is, not everyone who steps up to the leadership position is really qualified to lead. And sometimes — a lot of times — people will follow someone who doesn't know where they're going. People are funny creatures.


But someone has to be the leader in a business. That's not necessarily the same thing as being the boss. In a booth rent salon there is no boss. But there'd better be a leader. Or the whole place is going to collapse on itself.


We expect the salon owner to be the leader.  The owner is the one with the authority to get things done. To make decisions. To lead. A renter can be the natural leader of the pack, but that renter may not have the authority to buy new furniture or call a staff meeting to discuss how to improve morale or boost business.


Now. I knew when I gave my 30-day notice to my landlord a few years ago that I would probably end up owning my own salon again in the future. But I promised myself I wouldn't try it again until I was in a position to "do it right." Which is silly since I think I did it pretty well the first time. But what I mean is, next time I want to do it differently. Which is going to take a lot of money and a lot of planning, and more experience and leadership training than I have to offer right now. I'm happily renting my booth while performing my act in the circus ... for the time being.


The BF and I, of course, spend a great deal of time talking about my business. Mostly because mine is so fascinating while his is boring and stupid. (He's a mechanic. Who wants to spend all day getting grease under their nails?)


So not too long ago the BF put this question to me: "Do you want to manage a salon or do you want to do nails?"


Well gee. I want to do both.


But, of course, he's right. Both are full time jobs, and trying to do both means at least one will suffer. Which really put things into perspective and has given me a lot to think about when thinking about ever owning a salon again.


Because a salon needs a leader. And it's awfully hard to actively lead when you're busy doing nails. Or hair. Or updating your Facebook page from your phone.



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